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North Dakota State stuns Marquette

Dec 3, 2006 - 4:19 AM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Marquette may want to rethink the idea of hosting a tournament.

Andre Smith scored 26 points to lead North Dakota State to a 64-60 shocker over the ninth-ranked Golden Eagles in the Blue and Gold Classic.

Mike Nelson, the tournament MVP, added 19 points for the Bison, an independent who beat Princeton, 57-50, in the tourney opener on Friday night.

"It was a great night for us and our kids, a great win," North Dakota State coach Tim Miles said. "We don't get a March and we had to approach the game like it was a March event for us. This was a statement night for us to come out and win the tournament.

"We beat a good Princeton team last night and a great Tom Crean team tonight. Our kids went out and took the fight to them."

Marquette (8-1) was beaten in the tournament championship game for the second straight year, having lost to Winthrop last season.

The game was reminiscent of a couple of close calls the Golden Eagles had early in the season. Marquette rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to beat Division II Hillsdale College in its opener and needed overtime to get by Idaho State in its second game.

"We got beat by the better team tonight," Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean said. "We only led at one point. They beat us fair and square in every facet. We've dodged bullets, but don't want to give anything back. We danced a little too close to the line of defeat and tonight we couldn't get over it. They were tougher and had more energy."

North Dakota State does have some credentials, losing a narrow 85-81 decision to Bob Knight and Texas Tech last month. And last season, the Bison ended Wisconsin's non-conference home winning streak at 27 games.

The Golden Eagles only led twice in the opening two minutes and were flustered by a 2-3 zone defense throughout, shooting 35 percent (24-of-68) from the field and just 4-of-21 from 3-point range.

The Bison took their biggest lead of the game, 24-14, on Smith's layup with 6:39 to play in the first half.

Marquette made repeated runs in the second half, but Nelson hit a pair of 3-pointers and Smith scored 10 points in the final 3:39 as North Dakota State held on.

"Tonight was a team effort," Miles said. "There was a different guy responding in his own way many times. This group played tough the entire game and responded."

Marquette guards Dominic James and Wesley Matthews combined to shoot 6-for-26 and finished with eight and nine points, respectively.

Jerel McNeal was one of the few bright spots for the Golden Eagles, scoring 16 points and tying a season high with seven steals.

"I think more than anything we need to take this as a wake-up call," McNeal said. "We were playing from behind too much and not putting two halves together, and it caught up to us."

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